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The Bellini

A Guide to Venice's Iconic Cocktail

By: Chloë Sibley Writer & Journalist | Specialist Food & Arts

The Bellini is adored across the world for its succulent fruity flavour and soft-pink radiance. Born in the renowned Harry’s Bar of Venice, the Bellini’s vision derived from the city’s trademarks. Named after a pioneering Venetian artist and made using ingredients native to Veneto, this ultimate summer aperitif is a Venetian icon.

If you’re staying in one of our villas near Venice and Verona, there are endless choices for cocktail evenings that capture Venice’s glamour and gastronomic class. However here we return to one of northern Italy’s most emblematic cocktails and uncover the secrets behind the Bellini’s creation.

Harry’s Bar 

In 1948 Giuseppe Cipriani Senior, head bartender and owner of the world-famous Harry’s Bar invented the Bellini. Venice was at the heart of post-war-time glamour. Alongside Paris and the Cote d’Azur, the floating city ruled the socialite scene, frequented by many A-list celebrities.  

Harry’s Bar is perched at the end of Calle Vallaresso near the best-known square in Venice, Piazza San Marco. Declared a National Historic Monument in 2001, this San Marco bar looks and feels like something out of a 1930’s movie. The interior decor has not changed since it was opened in 1931. With dark wood panelling, old leather seats and snowy linens, it’s no surprise that the likes of Peggy Guggenheim, Katherine Hepburn, Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, and Orson Welles, fell for its charm. 

The secret lies in the peach

From May to September peaches are in abundance throughout Italy, and in the summer of ‘48, Cipriani Senior took the challenge of creating a cocktail that combined the seasonal, white peaches he loved so much, with Veneto’s pride and joy, Prosecco of Conegliano Valdobbiadene. 

As simple as the recipe may sound — two parts Prosecco, one part white peach purée and a dash of raspberry or cherry juice — the secret lies in the peach. Made using a small, white variety grown near Verona, the seasonal speciality was served only during the four-month peach season. Believe it or not, Cipriani had staff whose sole job was to squeeze and pit the fruit by hand! 

Harry’s popular speciality drink would soon become the ‘Bellini’, as Cipriani would name his newest concoction after Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini.  

A homage to Giovanni Bellini

Giovanni Bellini is one of the greatest, most influential and celebrated Venetian painters. He was born into a family of artists: his father, Jacopo Bellini, was an Early Renaissance painter who introduced the principles of Florentine Renaissance style to Venice, while his brother, Gentile Bellini and brother-in-law, Andrea Mantenga, were two of the most highly respected artists of the Venetian Renaissance. Giovanni revolutionised Venetian painting, moving it towards a more sensuous and sumptuous colouring style. All in all, both sons and father had a major influence on Venice, transforming the city into a Renaissance powerhouse, rivalling both Florence and Rome. 

Legend has it that the Bellini's iconic glow reminded Cipriani of his favourite 15th-century painting by Giovanni Bellini, currently on display that summer at the Ducal Palace. So, just like that, the drink was christened. 

Where to drink the Bellini in Venice

If you’re in the market for a Bellini on your day trip from your villa near Venice and Verona, Harry’s Bar is the ultimate destination to try this cocktail. Home to Venice’s iconic cocktail,  this Venetian landmark will provide a perfectly sophisticated evening to enjoy an equally sophisticated cocktail. 

If you feel like indulging the Venetian way, Bar Longhi is your spot. This classy setting for cocktails sits within the luxury Gritti Palace Hotel, a Renaissance palace once home to the 16th-century Doge Andrea Gritti. Take your place in an authentic piece of Venetian history as you sip your Bellini on the canalside terrace or in the historic interior salon. 

For something less touristy, head over to San Polo to Caffè Dei Frari (recently renovated and renamed Il Mercante Cocktail Bar). This old-fashioned bar was established in 1870 and is one of the last Venetian tearooms with original decor. Discover new facets of the Bellini with their avant-garde cocktail menu, designed in a way where each drink is paired with a dish which exalts and enhances its flavours. 

Located 2 minutes from Ponte di Rialto, the oldest bridge on Venice’s Grand Canal, is a trendy Venetian bar called Barcollo. With a groovin’ playlist and great selection of cocktails, Barcollo guarantees a night to remember. Be warned, though: one too many Bellini’s and you won’t remember much! 

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